Introducing our speech-to-text partners

We are thrilled to announce the incredible slate of partners working with us to build custom speech-to-text software for news organizations, historical audio collections, and religious institutions: CUNY Television, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Illinois Public Media, KCRW Los Angeles, KQED San Francisco, NPR, the Presbyterian Historical Society, the Princeton Theological Seminary, Snap Judgment, and StoryCorps.

Curious where this idea came from? We started with some big problems:

  • Transcription is time-consuming. There are no human hands fast enough to transcribe the amount of recorded sound we process. And even if there were…

  • Transcription is expensive. Enough said.

  • Out of the box automatic transcription services are inaccurate. “India” becomes “ninja,” “quitter” becomes “Twitter,” and a meaningful broadcast or oral history can end up reading like tech gibberish.

Read more in our initial blog post announcing the project.

Over the next two months, we’re creating unique speech-to-text vocabularies tailored specifically to our partners’ content: contemporary news broadcasts, oral histories, archival recordings, religious lecture series and sermons. We’ll be blogging about our partners, their amazing audio, and the speech-to-text customization process as it unfolds, so check back for updates.

The vocabularies are built directly from words and phrases found in our partners’ content. It won’t be 100% accurate, but these special vocabularies enable our speech-to-text software to effectively gauge the likeliness that sounds in certain contexts correspond to particular words or phrases — so that, for example, when someone recording an oral history for StoryCorps says “quitter,” it doesn’t get transcribed “Twitter.” Unless of course the person actually said “Twitter,” which our software can accurately guess by looking at the placement of the word and other nearby words within a sentence.

Our software was initially trained on a subset of audio and transcripts from NPR, StoryCorps, the Washington Post, the Broadcast Board of Governors, and numerous independent producers, reporters, and radio stations. If you want to learn more about advancements in speech-to-text, watch this short Google Tech Talk.

We can’t wait to bring cutting edge speech recognition methods to organizations that would otherwise never benefit from this technology. Want to be a part of the custom speech-to-text magic? Just let us know. We’ll be onboarding more organizations in the coming weeks, and yours could be one of them.

Advised by the British Broadcasting Corp. R&D team and partnered with the Public Radio Exchange, Pop Up Archive is supported by the Knight Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and 500 Startups.